Given the rainy start to Sunday morning in Spielberg, it was no surprise that a wet race was declared for the lightweight class but raindrops kept away for long enough to tempt some tyre changes on the grid. The consequence was drama from start to finish, starting with poleman Deniz Öncü making a late call for slicks that cost him a back of the grid start and ending with rookie sensation Pedro Acosta securing his fifth victory of the season and KTM’s first of the day on home soil, after a race-long battle with his main rival in the championship. Sergio Garcia spent the most time at the front of proceedings and miraculously kept second despite losing the front at turn 9 on the final lap, showing the strength of the two leaders, who had stretched such a significant gap that the GASGAS rider was able to rejoin without losing positions. Romano Fenati started the race in the top three and ended it there, after a late battle with Jaume Masia.
Fenati had made an excellent start to lead the way into turn one from Garcia and Acosta and that leading trio quickly extended a gap on the chasers on the first lap. Garcia demoted Fenati to lead at the start of lap 2 and Fenati was immediately under pressure from Acosta, but the leaders’ gap increased to almost two seconds by the end of that lap.
Acosta picked up the lead from Garcia for the first time at turn 3 on lap 3 and the two Spaniards were attempting to put some room in between themselves and Fenati. While the leaders swapped places on the next couple of laps, Fenati dropped one second back and trying to keep a gap to the pursuers led by Masia and Ayumu Sasaki. Meanwhile, the fastest of the men on slick tyres was Darryn Binder in 17th place, 16 seconds off the lead and getting steadily quicker, but the lot of them seemed to struggle to keep within track limits early on.
Garcia continued to lead the way from Acosta for the next handful of laps, with Fenati dropping almost four seconds behind by lap 8 and into the clutches of Masia, Sasaki and Maximilian Kofler but, in the tricky conditions, no one seemed too eager to attack for the final podium position just yet. 20 seconds down the road, Binder had joined the point scoring positions by the halfway mark of the race.
Although Garcia continued to roll out red sector times up front, Acosta looked comfortable matching his pace and bided his time behind his compatriot, while the dry line was getting slightly wider with every lap. Acosta finally made his favourite move at turn 3 with 11 laps remaining, with teammate Masia replicating that move 9 seconds later, to take third from Fenati. While the more experienced Spaniard held onto his position, Garcia deposed Acosta once more at turn 9. Status quo was maintained over the next few laps, the only difference being that Masia was stretching a gap over his challengers for third. Despite the ever darker clouds surrounding the Red Bull Ring, Binder got quicker as the dry line got wider, the South African joining the top 10 with 7 laps remaining and starting to match the pace of the leaders, albeit 24 seconds behind them. However, the rest of the men on slicks were either slow to progress into point-scoring positions, like John McPhee and Gabriel Rodrigo, or joined the gravel like Andi Farid Izdihar.
Back at the front, Acosta gave it another go at the lead at his beloved turn 3 with 6 laps and then with 2 laps to go, but Garcia retaliated straight back to start the final lap in the lead. Acosta took advance of his last opportunity and was not shy the next time around turn 1 but got a taste of his own medicine with Garcia pulling off a block pass at turn 3, sending Acosta well wide. That was nowhere near the end of the story, as Acosta attacked one final time at turn 9 and Garcia immediately lost the front, but sliding down the tarmac did not see him sliding down the timesheets, as the Spaniard was able to quickly rejoin and keep second position.
Meanwhile, Fenati had found a couple of seconds to catch up with Masia in the closing stages and stole third at the line, pushing the Spaniard off the podium. Sasaki added a third KTM to the top five, while Binder climbed as high as he could, up to sixth for the final three laps. Ryusei Yamanaka, Yuki Kunii, Kofler and Adrian Fernandez rounded out the top 10.
Acosta’s hard-fought victory extends his lead in the world championship to 53 points over Garcia. Fenati’s late charge promoted him to third, 87 points off the lead and 10 ahead of compatriot Dennis Foggia, who had an underwhelming race down in 22nd position, just behind the poleman.
|38||David Salvador||Honda||9 Laps|
|19||Andi Farid Izdihar||Honda||11 Laps|
|99||Carlos Tatay||KTM||0 Lap|